Thermotherapy refers to the application of heat or cold (cryotherapy) for the purpose of changing the cutaneous, intra-articular and core temperature of soft tissue with the intention of improving the symptoms of certain conditions. Cryotherapy and thermotherapy are useful additions for the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries and soft tissue injuries. Using ice or heat as a therapeutic intervention will decrease the pain in joints and muscles as well as soft tissues and they have opposite effects on tissue metabolism, blood flow, inflammation, edema and connective tissue extensibility.
For the purpose of massage, I use two different heat therapy products. The benefits of using heat as part of my treatment is as follows;
Vasodilation - Circulation is improved by a sudden influx of nutrient-rich blood and oxygen being provided in to the area. This helps aid healing.
Reduction in joint stiffness - A decreased viscosity of synovial fluid is one of the main causes of joint stiffness. Heat encourages the synovial fluid to become more pliable, thus reducing stiffness.
Preparation for massage and/or exercise - The muscle tissues are warmed up using heat by alternating the bonds between collagen fibres in connective and muscle tissue.
The first product I use is the Epiony Heat Pad, being completely non evasive, the Heat Pad can be used on all parts of the horses body, dependent on what the problem that needs addressing is.
At the start of each appointment, I will always begin the session by palpating a number of areas on the horse to highlight areas of tension, trigger points, muscle spasms and any soreness. This will help her to establish where needs the most attention and therefore gets as much out of the allotted appointment time as possible. By applying the Epiony Heat Pad to these areas, the muscles will be warm enough to allow me to work deep enough and help to resolve any issues found.
Although massage shouldn't be carried out on arthritic areas, the Epiony Heat Pad can be used to relieve arthritic discomfort and pain, so if you did have a horse with arthritis, I could (with veterinary permission) use the heat pad on the affected areas whilst carrying out massage on the other areas. This means that an arthritic horse can still benefit from a full treatment, leaving him/her a lot more supple and comfortable after.
The Epiony Heat Pad has four temperature settings and a thermostat, so the temperature is fully controlled at all times with no chance of the horse or the battery overheating.
The next heat therapy product that I use is the Epiony Thermal Wand. The thermal wand is a hand operated device with three temperature adjustable prongs which can be massaged over certain muscles on the body. It is particularly useful on tight polls and also on tight back and hamstring muscles. In addition to the heated prongs it also has an optional vibration setting to stimulate the neuromuscular system and an infrared light to aid in stimulating the body's own healing mechanisms via molecular signaling and circulatory modulation.